History of Åbjøra
See also The history of Bindalsbruket and Plahtes properties.
(E-book by Arvid Sveli)
The largest contiguous forest area on Plahtes Eiendommer in Åbygda lies in the valley head along the main watercourse, which runs in an easterly direction up to Åbjørvatnet, where it bends more to the north-east. On the north side of the Åelva, the lower limit for the properties is approx. 1 kilometer within the Skarstad gardens. On the south side of the river, we have the border with Fuglstadgardene some distance below Åbjørvatnet, 4-5 kilometers further inland. From here, the property includes Åbjørvatnet and the entire valley inland to the border with the municipalities of Brønnøy and Grane, and to the border with Namsskogan, which is also the county border with Nord-Trøndelag. Besides the large tracts of forest, there are many lakes and extensive high mountain ranges within these boundaries.
The settlement at Åbjørvatnet is very old, probably from prehistoric times. There were good opportunities for lifesaving here, with fishing, hunting and trapping, and good conditions for grain cultivation and livestock farming.
The picture is from about 1930.
Granbostad was for a time from the mid-1800s a freehold farm, but in 1874 the farmer Hans Kristensen entered into an agreement with Ulrik Sverdrup about a farm exchange. Sverdrup was to take over Granbostad in exchange for Hans Kristensen getting Sverdrup’s farm Sylten.
Around the turn of the century, the users at both Granbostad and Åbjøra were immigrants from Trøndelag. Few families have probably been hit harder than these Granbostad people by the terrible scourge of the time, tuberculosis. It is said that they had 14 children, and that 11 died as children or teenagers, the last from tuberculosis. The three who survived survived well because they moved out early. It is said that at least one of the sons went to America. The last of the family to die at Granbostad was the wife herself. Then the man traveled back to the village where he came from. Rumor had it that he too eventually succumbed to the same disease.
In a family book from Namdalen we can read: Anna Olsdatter Granbostad, born Bjørhusdal 19/5 1860 – died 31/8 1910. William Zakariassen Granbostad – born 19/9 1860 – died 28/1 1915.
After William, there were several people who were users at Granbostad for a shorter or longer time. The last were the Jarle and Svanhild Nilsen family from Åbygda. They ran the farm for four years. When they moved from there in 1965, they had four children aged 11/2 – 7 years. Since then, the farm has been deserted. Svanhild says that they enjoyed themselves very well at Granbostad and had their best years up there.
Photo p. 3: Karl Magnus Johansen Velde (1:1), and helpers in the shed.
In 1611, the first user in Åbjøra is mentioned by name. His name was Jon. From 1647 the farm was divided into two uses. This lasted until 1874 when Ulrik Sverdrup bought the whole of Åbjøra from the two users who were then freeholders. One of them was called Svend, and until now part of the infield has been called “Sveingarden”.
In 1877, Karl Magnus Johansen Welde from Trønder came to Åbjøra and became a tenant there until 1918. Karl Magnus must have been a distinctive personality, self-aware and not a little stubborn. There have been many stories about him in Åbygda. Up on the steep and rugged hillside to the north-east of the farm, he was once attacked by a furious bear which he had wounded. There will be no time to recharge. He threw away his rifle and saved himself by jumping to the top of a large fir that grew along a high, vertical precipice, clinging to it and climbing down. Then it was full speed back home to the farm where he got another gun and killed the bear.
Olaf Bergersen from Vassbygda, just south of the county border with Bindal, was a user from 1919 to 1940. In his time, he ran a silver reef farm in Åbjøra and obtained much of the reef fodder by fishing in Åbjørvatnet. Both in his time and while Karl Magnus was on the farm, several orphaned boys were allowed to come to Åbjøra and found a home there. Karl Magnus had a large family, while Olaf and his wife Marie were childless.
Magne Fjerdingøy from Namsskogan was the user from 1941 to 1947, and the last user was Johan Westerfjell from 1948 to 1954. Since then, the farm has been deserted and has only been used for household purposes during forestry work. Johan Westerfjell and his family moved to Namsskogan, and there always seems to have been a lively connection between this Trøndelag village and the farms by Lake Åbjørvatnet. They were also part of a refugee route during the 1940 war
Åbjørgarden had seats about 4 kilometers further into the valley. It was nicely situated with a nice embankment down towards the river, which here flowed wide and calmly over a flat bottom of gravel and pebbles. The houses there are long gone and the embankment has been planted with forest.
To survive on a farm like Åbjøra required thought and good planning. In winter, the ice on Lake Åbjørvatnet could be impassable for long periods, and the people on the farm were then almost completely cut off from the outside world. Also otherwise, all transport to and from the farm was very cumbersome, and it was important to be self-sufficient as much as possible with food and what was needed for subsistence. Heavier matters, such as flour, they had to ensure that they drove forward in good winter conditions. Otherwise, they also grew grain for their own use, which they ground on the farm’s mill.
But those who lived here lived a free life with a rich and powerful nature around them. It could be lonely, and maybe months passed between each time they saw other people. In winter, they could be visited by forest people who lived in forest cabins in the valley or by the lake, and by the log flutes in the spring. The Sami also visited when they moved with the reindeer herds between the interior and the coast. And for the farm’s men there was an opportunity to take part in both forestry work and whistling if they had the opportunity. In the 1930s, Bindalsbruket ran a forest nursery for local needs in Åbjøra, with youth from the village as labour. Then it could probably get quite lively at Åbjørgarden.
The old living room at Åbjøra is being maintained, but the rest of the houses are gone now. It is said that people who are afraid of the dark should not spend the night in this living room alone. – There are ghosts there, according to several people who have experienced it!
The Åelva was an important fluted waterway and has carried large quantities of timber on its back out to the fjord. It made it possible to carry out forestry around Åbjørvatnet and all the way to Oksdalen, and this has been one of the most important forest areas on Plahte’s Eiendommer. – Yes, all forestry in the entire Åbygda, from the border to the Urvoldvassdraget, was only possible with the Åelva and its tributaries for timber transport.
There were no dams to regulate “whistling water” in the main waterway, and the whistling did not always go completely without problems. In several places in waterfalls and rapids, timber bonds could easily form which were both laborious and dangerous to tear down. One of the worst was probably what happened in the summer of 1937 when they got 3,000 m3 of timber in a single vase in Brattfossen, about a kilometer below Åbjørvatnet. It took many weeks of hard work before the flute team solved the problem.
Timber from the area is now taken up by car at the lower end of the lake, but timber from the forests around the lake and from Åbjørdalen still has to be transported there. This old mode of transport thus does not quite end here. But the last whistle from Åbjørvatnet to the sea took place in 1972.
Today, it doesn’t take that many minutes by car from Åbygda to Åbjørvatnet. But those who want to try what access was like in the old days – before the road came in 1978 – can take the old footpath from Skarstad to Granbostad – “over Heia”, as they said. It is about a mile away in winding and hilly terrain, through forest and over heath and bog, and with a climb up to the highest point of approx. 250 meters. Here, it was not possible to drive without good winter conditions, so for most of the year the rickshaw had to be the means of transport. One can then wonder how Hans Kristensen was able to transport the large fishing boat from Granbostad to the sea in his time.
Far more remote than Åbjøra itself was the settler’s home from the late 1930s, Klarem, inside Oksdalen. To continue there from Granbostad, it was first a half-mile round trip over Lake Åbjørvatnet and then a 11/2-mile hike through forest and moorland. Along the way, one had to cross the river in Åbjørdalen twice, which could be difficult enough if the water level were not low. They usually spent two days each way when they had to go to the merchant at Terråk. But it is said that the young boys at Klarem could manage a shopping trip to Majavatn in one day. In that case, it had to be almost a cross-country race.
They broke up some arable land at Klarem and grew potatoes. They collected fodder for horses, two or three cows and young animals on mountain pastures up to a mile from Klarem, and drove it home on winter pastures. In addition, they had their reindeer herd, and they had preserved the Sami’s ancient knowledge of edible plants from forests and mountains. They had no shortage of food in the wilderness.
They had built a slatted log house for housing, but also had a large gamme they could live in. They had also built a barn, and in 1940 the family was able to move to Klarem and settle there.
I myself have fond memories of this settler’s home when we spent some fine autumn weeks doing timber flashing in there in the early 1950s. We then lived in the log house that they made available to us. Peder Johnsen and his two daughters lived in the gamn, the rest of the family were probably in the mountains reindeer herding.
Peder was deeply religious, and every morning he held devotions. Then a peculiar high-pitched psalm rang out from the horn. He also used to give sermons – “edification” – around the farms. He saw God’s index finger behind everything that happened, and about e.g. Reindeer went off course and killed himself, he did not take any of the meat. – “What God had taken to punish should not be taken back.” He maintained strict discipline within the family, and at home only Sami was to be spoken. One of the sons said that he did not know a word of Norwegian when he started school.
Peder Johnsen was tall for a Sami, and was broad and powerful. In his youth, he was considered to be Åbygda’s strongest man, and that is saying no small thing in view of this hamlet’s many strong men of forest folk. During the time we lived at Klarem, he began to show signs of age. A wispy, wild hair and beard made him look like depictions of Old Testament prophets.
A mountain chief and his daughter. Peder Johnsen Westerfjell and Maina at Klarem 1953.
What Peder Johnsen Westerfjell was best known for was his great effort in fish culture work. Gustav Westerfjell, son of Peder Johnsen, has told about this great fish cultivation.
In Åbjørdalen, approx. 1/2 mile below Kalvkruvatn, there is a waterfall that prevents the ascent of fish, and the entire watercourse above was empty of fish. It started with Peder Johnsen taking some fish in the river below the waterfall and putting them out in pools above. Later he carried fish to the large lake below Klarem. It was something he did for fun and had little hope that it would pay off. But the fish multiplied quickly, and after a few years they got trout of fine quality in the river and the lake.
Another Sámi, Nils Johan Kappfjell, then carried fish further up to Kalvkruvatn. When this release also succeeded beyond all expectations, Peder Johnsen continued to “populate” the other large lakes in stages, first Mellavatnet in 1921. In 1939, he and his son Paul carried fish to Ringvatnet and Oksdalsvatnet. One year during the war there was a Sámi woman who carried 12-13 fish to some small lake in the mountains above Mellavatnet. There were some very good fishing waters. They were later named after her who carried fish there and are today called Nilsinetjønnene.
They managed to keep the fact that there had been fish in these waters a secret for many years, but in the 1930s a pure gold fever raged in Bindal after discoveries made in Kolsvik, and sharpeners reached all around the mountains. Someone then discovered that there were exceptionally large and beautiful fish in Kalvvatna, and soon there were rumors in the villages about trout weighing 4-5 kilos in there.
At first, this did not lead to any large influx of anglers to these remote areas, but the rumors spread far and wide. In the 1950s, some people took to flying into Kalvvatna, and it probably also happened that they had rubber boats and yarn with. But fishing was unlikely to take place to such an extent that it had any major negative impact on the stock in these large lakes.
The English from Horstad were also interested in fishing and hunting elsewhere in Bindal, outside Horstad’s borders. The naval officer Mr. Rowson, the last of the English who stayed at Horstad, had a large and stately cabin built on Åbjørneset below Åbjørgarden. It is said that he thrived in these magnificent surroundings, perhaps he occasionally sought peace and quiet in solitude away from Horstad and the company there. Books he had brought to Åbjøra were left for a long time in a small cabin that Bindalsbruk had built on the headland.
Rowson had been in command of a warship during the First World War, and according to Torvald E. Solberg, the war veteran in conversations with him had expressed his view of war as abominable and cruel madness, and he had another pessimistic view of the future of humanity. He never returned to Åbygda. The cabin on Åbjørneset was expensive to maintain, and when there was no need for it, it was demolished. Bindalsbruk had two good large forest cabins built by Åbjørvatnet using the materials.